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Eat Pray Love’s Author Elizabeth Gilbert Was At The Jaipur Literature Festival Dropping Truth Bombs About Female Sexuality And It Was Fabulous!

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If you don’t know where to find me, look for me in a corner. You will probably find me in some sort of weird position, a book in my hand and if you call out to me, I am unlikely to hear you. I will probably know you’re calling out to me, but if the book has my attention, you will have to do something spectacularly interesting (no, don’t dance naked, that’s not interesting) to get me to look up and give you two cents of my attention. You get what I am trying to say, right? I love books. I love them with a passion. I spend more on books than I spend on makeup and that’s saying something.

Anyway, over the past few years, I have always wanted to go to the Jaipur Literature Festival for that reason – that it feels like this would be where all of us book lovers get together and engage in a word-orgy. Where we swoon over authors, get seduced by phrases, have soul-stirring conversations with fellow book fiends. And JLF was all this and more.

There were so many interesting things about it but it has to be Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk about women, sexuality and marriage that was absolutely smashing and in many way, the highlight of my entire festival itinerary.

I was not always an Elizabeth Gilbert fan. In fact, I resolutely refused to read ‘Eat. Pray. Love‘ because it seemed like such a frou frou book about discovering yourself and the spiralled so many cliches about travelling to India to ‘find yourself’ that I think Elizabeth single-handedly boost India’s tourism. But then, without thinking too much about it, I picked up City Of Girls and I was a convert. And her JLF session, the first one in this edition of the festival was proof, was brimming with enthusiastic readers and the chairs were packed, there were people standing on the fringes and I was sitting on the grass because I just wanted to listen in.

She walked on to stage to thunderous applause, well-deserved, undoubtedly and just minutes into the conversation, she was dropping truth bombs that had the audience in splits. She candidly admitted that the concept of marriage simply wasn’t working for her – not in any form. And she’s happy being single, she admitted to a crowd that was hanging on to every word she spoke. That’s also because she interspersed her talk with truths like, “Single women live longer, they are healthier, they are less likely to commit suicide, less likely to become addicts, they are less likely to be murdered, they have more wealth, they weigh less. It never ends. So whenever I hear women panicking and saying ‘ I am not going to get married!’ I just want to hand them a sheet with the data that says you will do so much better if you don’t. And the thing about it is, the reverse is also true. There’s nothing a man can do better for his life than get married. ”

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Thank you to everyone who came out today at the @jaipurlitfest to see my talk today! Here I am in conversation with the great Alexandra Pringle. (@alexandrapring) Alexandra is a legend in the publishing world, and one of my heroes. She’s the editor-in-chief of @bloomsburypublishing, and a tireless champion of her authors—including me. One of the things we talked about today on stage was how difficult it was at the beginning to get a British audience to read EAT PRAY LOVE. (I love you Brits, but you were simply NOT having me for the longest time! The confessional nature of my book was too much of an affront, it seemed, to your natural British reserve.❤️) But Alexandra refused to accept that British people wouldn’t read me. And so she essentially forced EAT PRAY LOVE into the hands of British booksellers, readers, bloggers, authors, and journalists. And eventually Alexandra broke everybody down, and now I have a beautiful fellowship of readers in Britain. Meanwhile, the entire time Alexandra was begging and bullying the British population to try EAT PRAY LOVE, the book was already a Number One bestseller in India (where Bloomsbury also publishes me). And for that I thank YOU, my dear Indian readers! Thank you for embracing me from the very start, beloved India. You have always been there for me. It was wonderful to meet so many of my Indian readers today in person. Thank you for the enthusiasm, for the warm welcome, and for your great questions. Thank you to the two (!) Indian women I met today who are writing doctoral theses on the themes of travel and female liberation in EPL. Thank you to the grammar school-aged Indian girls who were part of this enthusiastic conversation, too (and who hadn’t even been BORN when #eatpraylove was first published! #mindblown) Thank you to the Indian men who came out today to support my work, and who had such thoughtful contributions to the discussion. Just THANK YOU, India, for welcoming me to this festival, and for letting me be part of your lives and your imaginations for so many years. It’s beautiful to be here. (And thank you, Alexandra, for never giving up on your authors. So many of us love you and owe you so much!)❤️LG

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She also touched upon female sexuality. When I say touched upon, I mean, she shred all notions about female sexuality, blithely. She said, ‘The trope of the ruined woman, it’s always a dramatic story. How dare you have lust? How dare you have desire? And fi you do, you’d best poison yourself immediately or throw yourself under a train, or at least have the decency to be driven out of polite society. A lot of these novels I love, they are some of the greatest novels of the English language but as a woman, it is depressing to read about one suicide and murder after another for women who wanted nothing more than sexual pleasure. But tell me this, if every woman’s life is destroyed by the mistakes she has made, in regards to sex and love, there would barely be a woman left surviving on this earth. Because we seemed to have survived our terrible decision-making, our lust and our bad ideas. We’re still here.’

And she went on to talk about how these so-called bad ideas make us interesting women. Well, if her stories are anything to go by, and if I end up becoming a writer as powerful and wonderfully witty like her, I am willing to embrace those mistakes, with open arms.

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Mansi Shah is the resident humour writer and random conversation starter. Tends to laugh manically at puns. Deeply enjoys the blunt force of sarcasm. Preys on chauvinists and people with incorrect grammar. Hoards makeup and beauty products. Attacks Nutella with vigour.

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